Kampala, 27th/July/2012; A mid-year report released by Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has indicated that the environment for frontline journalists is getting more risky at the hands of the security agencies especially the police.Since January 2012, HRNJ-Uganda has recorded 50 attacks on journalists in the past seven months alone compared to 107 cases documented in the whole of 2011. The Uganda Police continues to lead the list of attackers with 26 cases followed by State House operatives with 7 and unfortunately, the Judiciary which is supposed to be the custodian of justice was among the violators with 5 cases documented.
Of the 26 cases in which police is implicated, no disciplinary action has been taken against any of the errant officers in spite of the fact that the cases were always drawn to the attention of the top police authorities. There have neither been any conclusive investigations. HRNJ-Uganda has therefore observed that impunity continues to be on the rise. The police have instead resorted to disguised suspicious compensation of its victims.
Other sources of attack included faith-based organizations (the Church), Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF), the community, an education institution –a school, a cabinet minister and unknown armed groups. Physical attacks contributed the highest number of violations with 19 cases, followed by blocking access to news scenes with 12 cases.Journalists working for the government media are also increasingly becoming more targets of attacks by the police. The Government owned Vision Group of companies which is a consortium of media houses experienced the most attacks with 25 cases. International correspondents were not spared too.
The attacks were spread countrywide with Kampala district recording the highest number of cases at 19, Wakiso eight, Kayunga seven, Mukono and Entebbe four respectively. Other areas that recorded incidences of attacks included Lugazi, Ntungamo, Lira, Pader, Teso, Kasese and Kaliisizo
Attacks ranged from arrests and detention, beatings, blocking access to news scenes, confiscation and malicious damage to property and deletion of recorded materials, among others. Male journalists were the most attacked with 45 cases compared to five females.
“This is a very worrying trend of events to have such a number of attacks against journalists during a time when there are no elections in the country. It is sad that the police have promoted impunity by covering up for the force’s errant officers other than reprimanding them. We call upon the police leadership to investigate these cases and the implicated officers and take punitive action,” said HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala.